Half of all Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
Data on the agency’s website showed that 165.9 million Americans had either received both shots of vaccines from Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech, or taken the single-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.
Currently, only Americans aged 12 and older are eligible for a vaccine, and the CDC says 58.5 percent of Americans in that age group (165.8 million people) are fully vaccinated.
Earlier this week, the White House announced that 70 percent of Americans 18 and older had received at least one vaccine dose, achieving a goal that President Biden initially hoped to reach by July 4. As of Friday, 60.9 percent of US adults (157.3 million people) were fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, while 80.3 percent of Americans 65 and older (43.9 million people) were fully vaccinated.
The 50 percent milestone has been reached 10 days after the CDC recommended the return of indoor mask mandates, regardless of vaccination status, in jurisdictions with at least 50 confirmed COVID cases per 100,000 people. As of Friday night, more than 86 percent of all US counties were experiencing either “substantial” or “high” transmission of COVID-19 above the threshold at which the CDC recommended mandates be instituted.
Critics have said the CDC’s guidance, recommended by its director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, has undercut necessary messaging that vaccines are effective against COVID-19, even against the highly contagious Delta variant. They’ve taken particular issue with Walensky’s contention that a study of a COVID-19 outbreak in Provincetown, Mass., over the July 4 weekend proves that vaccinated people can transmit the Delta variant more easily than other strains of COVID-19.
Walensky doubled down on her claims Friday, telling CNN: “Our vaccines are working exceptionally well. They continue to work well for Delta. With regard to severe illness and death, they prevent it. But what they can’t do anymore is prevent transmission. So if you’re going home to somebody who has not been vaccinated, to somebody who can’t get vaccinated, somebody who might be immunosuppressed or a little bit frail, somebody who has comorbidities that put them at high risk, I would suggest you wear a mask in public indoor settings.”
The White House, meanwhile, has touted improving vaccination rates in states where uptake had previously flatlined.
“The eight states with the highest current case rates have seen an average increase of 171 percent in the number of people newly vaccinated each day over the past three weeks,” White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said in a virtual briefing Monday. “Louisiana has seen a 302 percent increase in the average number of newly vaccinated per day. Mississippi, 250 percent. Alabama, 215 percent, and Arkansas, 206 percent. This increase in vaccination rates in states that have been lagging is a positive trend.”
Health officials hope to give the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine full approval by Labor Day, and clinical trials are underway to determine the feasibility of a COVID vaccine for children under 12.